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The Pharaoh's Secret (NUMA Files 13) Clive Cussler 2022/7/22 13:55:15

“Hang in there,” Gamay urged. “Please, hang in there.”

At the bottom of the shallow bay, Joe shared the oxygen from his tank with the D’Campions, calming them and keeping them alive until Kurt and Renata

found a way to haul them to the surface.

“We appear to be sinking,” Joe said.

“The whole forward compartment is flooded,” Renata said.

“Good thing we’re not far from the beach,” Kurt said.

He aimed for the shore and bumped the throttle. The damaged boat wallowed across the lagoon and beached on the sand moments later. The group climbed out, dropped into the shallows and waded the last few yards up onto the dry sand.

“Let’s head for the access road,” Kurt said. “Maybe we can flag down a ride.”

They hiked across the beach, checking on the defeated combatants along the way.

“All of them are dead,” Renata said. “Including the one I only shot in the legs.”

“This group has a twisted, backward view of No man left behind,” Joe said.

Kurt looked closer at the man Renata had hit in the legs. White foam was bubbling from his mouth. “Cyanide. We’re dealing with fanatics here. They must have standing orders not to get captured.”

“Wouldn’t it be easy to give such an order but rather hard to follow it?” Mrs. D’Campion asked.

“For normal people,” Kurt said. “But who knows what kind of an organization we’re up against.”

“Terrorists,” Mr. D’Campion suggested.

“They’re well versed in terror,” Renata chimed in. “But I think their goal is more than spreading fear.”

Kurt searched the body. He found no identification, no religious paraphernalia, jewelry or tattoos, no initiation scars that fanatic groups sometimes used to brand their own people. In fact, nothing at all to indicate who the men were or who they worked for.

“Make a call to the Maltese government,” he said to Renata. “See if they can get some cooperation from the Defense Force and security agencies here. The saying goes Dead men tell no tales, but in my experience that’s almost never true. Their weapons, their clothes, their fingerprints: sometimes those things can be traced. These guys didn’t just materialize out of nowhere, they have to have a past. And considering how they fought, I don’t think they were honor students or choirboys.”

She nodded. “Maybe we’ll get something out of the two that were captured near the Sophie C.”

“If they haven’t poisoned themselves yet,” Kurt said.

From there, the group began a long climb up the access road, past the abandoned resort buildings, to the road at the top of the bluff.

A few hours later, showered and wearing clean clothes, they were sitting in the baroque living room of the D’Campion estate as dusk fell. Overstuffed couches and chairs filled the lower level. Artwork, statues and a library’s worth of books covered the walls. A balcony from the loft looked down on them. In the center of one wall, a crackling fire burned in a huge stone hearth.

The hallway and the library were a mess, where the intruders had torn through the books and smashed lamps in an effort to intimidate the D’Campions.

Nicole D’Campion was doing her best to clean up until her husband stopped her. “Leave it, my dear. We need the police and the insurance people to see it before we tidy up.”

“Of course,” she said. “It’s just not in my nature to leave a mess.” She sat down and stared at Kurt, Joe and Renata. “My deepest appreciation for the rescue.”